Parents Sentenced in Son’s Death

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

Asbury Park Press, July 7, 2007

Author: Karen Sudol

Both parents sentenced in son's death


The combination of being ineffective parents and having a 14-month-old son
who suffered from a possible growth deficiencey equaled a tragedy waiting
to happen, a judge said Friday.

Superior Court Judge Paul F. Chaiet said: "A young life was lost and
shouldn't have been lost if the child was given appropriate and proper

Chaiet sentenced the parents, 25-year-old T.H. and 29-year-old Wesley
White, to three years in prison each. He also ordered no unsupervised
contact with the parents' two other children, who are in the care of a

The parents must each serve 85 percent of the sentences before becoming
eligible for parole.

T.H. and White, both of Asbury Park, pleaded guilty in April to
Manslaughter, admitting they recklessly caused the death of their son on
Aug. 22, 2004, when they failed to obtain medical treatment for him. They
did not take him to a hospital or a pediatrician when he lost weight.

In March 2004, the boy weighted 15 pounds; five months later he weighed
only 10 pounds, four ounces. While J.W.'s cause of death was chronic
malnutrition, the judge also referred to a forensic pathologist's
conclusion that underlying medical and genetic abnormalities contributed
to it.

Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Laurie Gerhardt, who argued for
five-year sentences for the pair, told the judge J.W.'s death was not

"He was totally reliant on his mother and father" for food, she said.

She also said White knew his son had dropped weight.

"He knew something was wrong with this child, and yet no help was sought
for this child," she said.

In June 2004, a Division of Youth and Family Services caseworker had
visited the family's Asbury Park apartment because a visiting nurse had
been unable to reach T.H. to administer anemia injections to her newborn
daughter. The caseworker noted that the home was clean but that two other
children - J.W. and his older sister - appeared small and anemic. A
medical opinion was not sought.

The handling of the case elicited criticism from then-acting Gov. Codey.
As a result, DYFS instituted new protocols including training designed to
make doctors, nurses and caseworkers better at picking up cues of neglect.

The protocol for assessing children in their homes also changed.
Supervisors can no longer conclude an investigation without an assessment
completed on all children in a household as well as the caretaker. T.H.'s
lawyer, David Schwartz, emphasized that T.H.'s act was reckless, not
intentional or purposeful.

He also said T.H., who is legally blind, primarily cared for the three
children, all of whom had growth problems and were born anemic.

J.W., he had said, suffered from a defect in his digestive tract that
prevented him from absorbing nutrients. And J.W. had been fed that day.

He also said pediatric visits when the boy was 6, 8 and 9 months showed
his weight had plateaued.

T.H. has been extremely remorseful about her son's death, Schwartz told
the judge.

"She has wept openly and almost out of control over the loss of her son,"
Schwartz said.

He referred to the 911 call T.H. made when she discovered her son wasn't
breathing, noting the anguish in her voice can clearly be heard.

"This was an expression of somebody who had no idea of what was about to
happen and no appreciation for how dire her son's situation was," he said.
"She suffers a loss, too. She was the mother of this little boy and
because of his death, she serves a life sentence that the boy died under
her care."

Michael Wicke, White's lawyer, also said White was remorseful.

The judge said both J.H. and White, who are no longer together, were
"terribly limited" in their parenting skills.
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